Review: Josh Smith – I’m Gonna Be Ready

Posted on: Saturday, Oct 29, 2011

“I’m Gonna Be Ready”
(CrossCut Records – CCD 11101)

Here’s a definite contender to be among this year’s best blues releases, a first major label release from the Los Angeles-based guitarist Josh Smith, whose profile has been raised recently by playing in Grammy-award winning producer and ‘soul man’ Raphael Saadiq’s band, and before that as lead guitarist for “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks.

On “I’m Gonna Be Ready” however he is no longer the sideman, but leading a lean, tight band through twelve self-penned originals . . . ranging from some swinging shuffles, slow blues and funky edged classic soul . . . all dominated by his superbly toned guitar work and gritty voice. The core of the band features Jeff Young (keyboards), Mike Menell (bass) and Mike Clarke (drums), with ‘heavyweight’ guest spots from the likes of Kirk Fletcher, Lynwood Slim, Fred Kaplan and James Gadson.

He is an intense player but never overstays his welcome solo-wise and gives plenty of space for his fellow musicians . . . his playing is deeply rooted in the great blues players, with I think it’s fair to say shades of Messrs. Freddie, Albert and BB King and the equally-legendary Albert Collins.

The opening “Fine Young Thing” is a dynamite mid-paced shuffle with West Coast bluesmen Lynwood Slim (harmonica) and Fred Kaplan (piano) lending accompaniment to Smith’s snarling guitar and fine vocal; he’s straight into a switch of direction and pace on the soulful “Only You”, with his buddy Kirk Fletcher on rhythm guitar and the punchy horns of Lee Thornburg (trumpet) and Lon Price (saxophone).

The swinging blues of “Goin’ Out Tonight” is another treat . . . punctuated by the twin keyboards of Jeff Young’s organ and the piano of Fred Kaplan; veteran sideman James Gadson on drums,  joins the party for the slow blues of “The Way You Do” . . . as Smith’s guitar stretches out over the keyboards and horns . . . his powerful soloing recalling the afore-mentioned Albert Collins here.

The rousing “You And Me (Don’t Belong Together)” has a Memphis-soul groove, as the rhythm section of Mike Menell and Gadson drive things along behind Smith’s chops and a fabulous performance from the horns again; the lengthy title cut, “Im Gonna Be Ready”, sees just Josh Smith in the company of Menell and Mike Clarke on drums on this brooding near seven minute song . . . one again his sparkling guitar is on top form as he lays down a lowdown thick toned groove.

To be honest there is not a ‘duffer’ among the songs, and elsewhere he gets funky on the instrumental “Newtie”, with Kirk Fletcher aboard again on this; rides another great groove on the blues of “Sober Up Baby” . . .and gets into a Texas feel on the shuffle of “Where’s My Baby” . . . .checking out if his lady will be home that particular night! He turns to some more sweet soul on the lovely “Already Found”, and the closing “Dead Wrong” is a funky blues with fiery licks a plenty!

The 31 years old Smith has hit the jackpot on this fine release, and a deal CrossCut Records can only enhance his standing in Europe, as well as at home . . . a must for all true blues guitar fans and lovers of great grooves and musicianship!


(The first edition of 3,000 units also contains a bonus cd with four extra instrumental tracks).

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